Crocheting and knitting is a family tradition in my world. My mother first introduced me to it when I was only eight years old. It didn’t “take” that time. I had only a five second attention span, and you need more for this level of counting and creativity. After I already had two little boys (who systematically broke everything new in the house) and was pregnant with my daughter, and on a lengthy bed rest, I bought a book about crochet from a local craft store and fell in love with the art form.
I loved the way it felt to wind yarn around the little pink titanium hook. I loved reading about its Chinese, French, Ashkenazi, Spanish, and African shared histories. I loved that crocheting meant connecting with, not only the world, but also my own world. My mother crochets. My great-grandmother crocheted. Her mother crocheted – the Irish, the Scottish, the Choctaw. I know that my Alsatian (German/French combo) great grandmother crocheted. Going back all the way to the third Jamestown and the first Quakers to hit the Mason-Dixon, my ancestors were crocheting. Before George Washington was a president, my grandmothers were making shawls and booties and bonnets for all kinds of sweltering Carolina weather.
Then, I discovered knitting…
Oh, man…the yarns! The cottons, the wools, the acrylics (don’t hate, they can survive all manner of little children antics), the silks, the lace…a whole new world opened up. Knitting came to me after I had been diagnosed with MS (it was an incorrect diagnoses, I have Myasthenia Gravis in real life), and I was having trouble walking and speaking. While my three little children ran around – the two boys and the girl – still breaking everything in sight, I practiced knit, pearl, knit, pearl (my favorite stitch, the stockinette). I watched the entire Ken Burns’ series, The Civil War twice (“The Civil War was fought in ten thousand places…”, knit, pearl…). It was here, that I learned to knit. My mother bought me two needles and a skein of heather colored cotton yarn and told me to practice the same stitch over and over again until I could do it in my sleep, which I now can.
There’s something about the repetitive nature of knitting and crocheting that calms the nerves, builds perspective. It’s my meditation, no matter the morning, no matter the weather. I helps me craft essays and papers. I think out interview questions and say prayers–it’s my wool spun rosary. It’s the poetry I’m not good at writing, the novel that I will never finish. Recently, I had to take stock in my writing life, and in order to do so, I had to pick up a couple needles and a hook, so that I could think straight and clear, and something finally registered inside my heart–the same place where family, history, and Hot Latin Husbands are usually only allowed:
1) When I’m stressed out, I don’t eat or drink. I knit and/or crochet and watch history documentaries.
2) When I’m looking for answers, I write and read essays about all the questions, the questions which are crafted while I crochet or knit.
3) I usually find that all the answers have already been pondered successfully by my grandmothers who have left behind a 400 year trail for me to follow.
4) So, this new blog (which will shortly be a full website) will be about my family history – that third Jamestown voyage for the Fitzgeralds, Beairds, and whoevers, the kosher Lower East Side and Brooklyn with Szarah and Ruth, to the Jutland with Katerina (who was also Yekaterina), to Switzerland with Maria Agate Kellar, and back to the state of my birth – Oklahoma – with Esther and Viola-Mae (for whom I long ago named my dress form when I sold shawls, sweaters, and French market bags as Theophany Threads).
I’m not writing novels anymore, at least, not this summer. I actually love doing that about as much as I might love cleaning horse stalls or scrubbing the brown iron rust ring from my Pennsylvania farm country toilet. I am writing everyday, and sometimes as “Ani Burnett” (the nickname my Oklahoma uncle gave me years ago, because he said “Tiffani is too highbrow for a girl whose uncle lives in Claremore.”) I just wanted to try out a pen name. Everyone else is doing it. “Ani” is the second half of Tiffani and Burnett is my maiden name, a Scottish surname of which I am supremely proud (and which looks quite natural next to a winter skein of tweed and wool).
But, even though I’m not writing novels, I will be reviewing them every couple of weeks. Sometimes, they will inspire a new pattern that I will sell, as a finished product and a graph. Shop to come.
Presently, I am reading Lisa Gott’s A Thirty-Something Girl (and absolutely loving it!), and the cover inspired a crocheted beach throw which I will be taking to Dewey Beach in the next few weeks and posing under the sunset. It’s called #SeaGlass and you can see the updates on Facebook and Twitter if we’re friends, and here as well. I will offer a review of Lisa’s book here, and I’ll be giving away a few copies, some yarn and pattern kits, and selling those same things for those who don’t win them.
So, even if you don’t hook, you’ll have fun here, so hang around. It’s going to be a Southern-Yankee-Kosher-Slavic-Native good time with metal and string and fine words of discovery. It’s a new yarn I’m spinning.